When The Music’s Over
Who conjured up those parking lot
fist fights where the gravel and dirt
found all the concavities of the spine
and nestled in there like homesteaders
lit on freedom, like bootleggers in
stifling hot August dreams?
Would to God it might rain
and let out some of this combustible
earnestness, slit it open like an
envelope fresh from Kansas City,
crisp twenties folded within the letter
full of misspelled bloodline fury.
I heard a street preacher with an
amplifier in the same parking lot
where a wrecker sported brush-painted flames
on the quarter panels; I reckoned
I was close to home.
Who boiled up this telluric mess,
this ride through low-lying fog
and limp power lines?
Sized up the barrel house
and drove straight through that
sumbitch, I like the taut murmur-line
where everyone is afraid of what’s next.
Some fool in melted dreamer’s clothes
carries a hatchet and pulls a swollen cigarette
out from underneath the mess of Bing cherries
in his rusted wheelbarrow.
Seven octoroon babies cried
when you left
and I wondered where the song was
Remember that family that got lost
in Coohatchie Marsh, I
found the father’s fiddle,
catgut strings now more like chickenskin out the fryer
and it smelled louder than sex
louder than the sacred hem of her
I gave it back to the moon
and the moonshine
with all its lousy reckoning
’cause I don’t welch on no
The Great Depression
A happenstance of ugly bibles
and withered gladiolas
gathered in the floor
and she gave a wooden stare
towards yonder room
where a mess of children
painted their white bellies
with bacon grease and stabbed
their butter knives
aimlessly at a sly wasp.
Big Sandy pined on the radio,
warbling about a stack of bills
and momma’s medicine
while that wasp made a beeline
for the front yard junker Dodge,
the low mudbrown buzz
a metronome for the Fly-Rite Boys’
She bent to her knees saying,
“My spirit has done turned to molasses.”
Scott Howdeshell lives and works in Central Alabama, making drinks and mopping floors. He loves his mother and his cat and music and Cormac McCarthy.